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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Bill Plaschke

Bill Plaschke: Vin Scully’s voice, a serenade of rebirth, will live on forever in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — He was the soundtrack of a city, the muse of millions, the voice of home.

Vin Scully is gone, but he will never be silenced.

He will be forever heard on soft spring afternoons, a serenade of rebirth, a song of hope.

“It’s tiiiime for Dodger baseball!”

He will forever resonate on warm summer nights, the music of family, the lyrics of life.

“Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be ....”

Scully died Tuesday at 94, but his poetic narration of Los Angeles’ most enduring sports franchise will ring in our hearts forever.

Officially, for 67 years, he was the television and radio broadcaster for Dodgers baseball, including from the moment they arrived in town in 1958 until his retirement in 2016.

Unofficially, he was a guy who sang show tunes on his drive to work, attended weekly Mass outside the Dodgers’ clubhouse, and would spend afternoons sitting by his backyard pool doing play-by-play of his children swimming.

Officially, he existed behind a microphone in a tiny cramped booth high above Dodger Stadium home plate, reluctant to be shown on the video board, happy to be the anonymous narrator who, on his bobblehead night, never once mentioned it was his bobblehead night.

Unofficially, he was everywhere.

He was such a part of the fabric of this city that his voice was an actual landmark, a lilting Hollywood sign, a poetic Griffith Park, a storytelling Santa Monica Pier.

Travelers returning to Los Angeles often had the same experience while driving from LAX. Once they heard Vin Scully on the radio, they knew they were home.

For generations of Angelenos who grew up with him in their cars, in their living rooms and at their bedsides, he became a faithful companion and gracious friend.

Describing the play of its favorite team while interjecting life lessons masquerading as baseball stories, Scully became a city’s eyes, its ears and its conscience.

He was more than a sports announcer; he became the most trusted public figure in this city’s history. He was not only the greatest Dodger broadcaster, he was the greatest Los Angeles Dodger, period.

In perhaps the only misguided act of his tenure, his last public words in his final game at Dodger Stadium was a recording of him serenading the crowd with, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Misguided, because we should have been singing it to him.

His words were, indeed, the inspiration that helped a community soar, his inclusive embrace of the diverse Dodger Nation forging a connection felt far beyond the baseball field.

He spoke to all of us, in a language everyone understood, his public embracing of players from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Yasiel Puig setting the stage for Dodger Stadium to become the most Los Angeles-centric place on the planet. On any summer night, the multi-cultural crowds at Chavez Ravine look like our city because Scully made them comfortable for our city.

The only Dodgers star he never publicly embraced was himself.

“I know myself to be a very ordinary man, really I do,” he once told me. “I would just as soon go quietly.”

Yet today his loss is as deafening as his humility was startling.

He never wrote a book because he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about him. He never seriously listened to offers to become strictly a national broadcaster because he always felt lucky the Dodgers wanted him.

He was so unassuming, every time he phoned you, he would announce himself by his full name.

“Bill, this is Vin Scully,” he would say, and you would invariably laugh, because you knew it was him from the moment he said, "Bill."

He was so unaffected, for years his voicemail recording was his actual voice requesting that the caller leave a message.

A confession: Sometimes in the winter I would call him for no reason other than to hear that voicemail and dream of spring.

Another confession: As with many of his acquaintances, my most compelling Scully memories are of words he meant only for me.

He phoned last summer when I was sidelined with COVID-19 and — after announcing this was off the record — he and wife Sandi gave me advice on treatments.

He phoned after every story I ever wrote about him and — after announcing this was off the record — he would profusely thank me while Sandi offered her thanks in the background.

I phoned him once when I had heard that he embarrassingly lost his 1988 World Series ring in a Costco bag of ribs. He phoned back and said he wasn’t sure he wanted it written because nobody would be interested. Then he shrugged and said, “Aw, why not, everybody can relate to Costco,” and regaled me with the tale of pushing a Costco cart while Sandi did the shopping.

“I’m the donkey, but I’m really very good at it, I can cut all kind of corners with that cart,” he told me. “I tell Sandi, ‘Stay out of the way so I don’t run this truck over your heels!’ ”

Scully lost the ring during one holiday shopping expedition, leading him to answer a fellow shopper’s question about what was more exciting, Costco or a baseball game?

“I told him, it’s Costco, because the outcome is really in doubt,” he said.

Sandi eventually found the ring in the bottom of the meat bag, an interesting ending that made for a magical story, the sort Scully would tell during games. He would so deftly spin yarns about everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Jackie Robinson to Clayton Kershaw, fans eventually cared more about the stories than the game. He is surely the only baseball broadcaster in history whose listeners cheered two-out foul balls so he could finish his story before the commercial break.

“God is very good,” he once told me. “It’s like he’s hitting those foul balls for me.”

Yet he also knew the perfect time to be quiet. He became bigger than the game, yet he always stepped aside for the game. In fact, his most theatrical call is equally as famous for what he did not say.

Before he announced Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series homer with, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” as Gibson rounded the bases to thundering applause, he was silent for one minute and eight seconds.

Masked by Scully’s constant smile and playful laugh was a history of personal tragedy. His first wife, Joan, died of an accidental overdose of cold and bronchitis medicine. His son Michael died in 1994, at age 33, in a helicopter crash. Then, in January of 2021, Sandi died from complications from ALS.

“The main thing, I want people to remember me as a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather,” he said. “That’s the most important thing of all.”

This became clear when, after a conversation for a magazine story I was writing, Scully asked me not to call his children for quotes because he didn’t think they’d want to be bothered. His children learned of his misguided request and called me.

“I don’t care what my father said, I cannot let you write a story without telling you how great he is,” said his daughter Catherine.

Through it all, for nearly seven decades, for the millions who heard him for a minute or for a lifetime, he kept sharing and embracing. In return, he was at once revered like an icon and loved like an uncle.

What other broadcaster would be cheered by the most objective people in the ballpark? Before every series, from their gathering spot around home plate, he would be publicly saluted by the four umpires.

Yet, what other broadcaster’s favorite calls were of children playing in the stands? Once, he complimented a little girl’s enthusiasm before she was seen picking her nose.

“Ah, yes, shine on, my dear,” he said, before realizing what was happening, “And no nose picking, not on camera, oh no!”

We laughed with him, marveled with him, learned from him, grew from him, connected through him, and Los Angeles and the Dodgers will never be the same without him.

Perhaps Vin Scully’s life can be best summed up in the totality of his trademark home run call, one in which he majestically described the action before letting the rest of us steal the show.

He was our soundtrack. He was our song.

“High drive into left-center field and deep . . . a-way back . . . and it’s gone!”



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